Defining moment after female PM Gillard brands rival a ‘misogynist’
A FIERY speech attacking sexism by Julia Gillard, Australia’s first woman prime minister, has prompted the textbook of English down under to broaden its definition of “misogyny” in line with the tenor of the current political controversy.
Ms Gillard last week used a parliamentary session to attack conservative opposition leader Tony Abbott, accusing him of being a misogynist. Her speech has since become an internet hit.
In response, Australia’s respected Macquarie Dictionary has decided to broaden the definition of “misogyny” to reflect its modern use.
The dictionary currently defines misogyny as “hatred of women”, but will now add a second definition to include “entrenched prejudice against women”. Mr Abbott stands accused of discriminating against women with his sexist views.
“The language community is using the word in a slightly different way,” dictionary editor Sue Butler said.
In her parliamentary speech, Ms Gillard attacked Mr Abbott, a Catholic, for once suggesting men were better adapted to exercise authority, and saying abortion was “the easy way out”. He also stood in front of anti-Gillard protesters with posters saying “ditch the witch”.
Ms Gillard’s speech in Canberra last week came after Mr Abbott attempted to move a motion to oust the house of representatives speaker Peter Slipper over crude and sexist terms Mr Slipper made in text messages that came to light in a court case.
“If he wants to know what misogyny looks like in modern Australia, he doesn’t need a motion in the House of Representatives; he needs a mirror,” Ms Gillard told parliament. “Misogyny, sexism – every day from this leader of this opposition,” she added. Ms Gillard said she was offended when Mr Abbott once said to her in parliament: “If the prime minister wants to, politically speaking, make an honest woman of herself…”
The term usually refers to a man marrying a woman with whom he is having a sexual relationship.
As well as being Australia’s first female premier, Ms Gillard is also the first to share the official residence with a common law partner, former hairdresser Tim Mathieson, who is widely referred to as the “first bloke”.
Mr Abbott has labelled her attack as cheap and personal and part of a government smear campaign against him.
The fallout from Ms Gillard’s speech has followed her on an official visit to India, where it was raised during a panel discussion, but she told reporters in New Delhi yesterday that she would not give advice on word definitions.
“I have been left in no doubt that a lot of people have clicked on and watched that speech here in India,” she said. “I will leave editing dictionaries to those whose special expertise is language.”
But the opposition has ridiculed the dictionary move, with senator Fiona Nash saying Ms Gillard is the one who needed to be more careful with her words.
Mr Abbott, a super-fit cyclist and swimmer, has been battling perceptions he has a problem with women voters, with his wife and three daughters making public appearances in recent weeks to soften his tough-guy image.
Meanwhile, in New Delhi, Ms Gillard suffered some embarrassment herself when she tripped and fell on a visit to Mahatma Gandhi’s shrine.
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